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Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, October 18, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, October 18, 2022

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Grades 3–12

Photo Ark Project

In 2006, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore began the Photo Ark project, aiming to document the roughly 20,000 animal species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries worldwide. With portraits of 13,000 species and counting, he’s more than halfway there! The photographs—suitable for grades 3–12 and viewable on the Photo Ark website—are intended to spread awareness about at-risk species and to showcase the great diversity among animal species on Earth. In addition, teachers can access classroom activities to explore topics such as animal adaptation as well as how to teach students to think critically about species extinction and develop their own opinions about conservation.

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary and Middle Level

Children's Museum Indianapolis Lesson Library

Educators from the Children’s Museum Indianapolis have developed a collection of standards-supporting lessons based on museum exhibits and other topics for K–8 audiences. The lessons, many of which explore science concepts, can be paired with books, online resources, or other museum videos, and include hands-on learning activities that students can complete at home or in the classroom. For example, Seed Dissection (grades K–2) engages young learners in observing the parts of a seed and identifying how a seed’s different parts help a plant germinate. In Tye Dye Paper (grades K–2), students characterize materials by their state of matter, then combine materials to create a piece of colorful, tie dye–esque paper.

Upper-elementary learners (grades 3–5) can participate in activities such as Mold and Cast, in which students define the term fossil, learn to identify the difference between a mold and a cast fossil, and discover how scientists use models to learn about the physical structure of something in the natural world. Build a Parachute (grades 3–5) lets students create their own parachute to explore how air pushes up against an object and slows it down as it falls. At the middle level (grades 6–8) students explore DNA through activities such as DNA—The Action of Extraction, in which students extract DNA from wheat germ to learn how DNA can be found easily in food, and DNA—The Ladder of Life, in which students create a DNA model to illustrate how DNA bases are a like a blueprint for each living thing.  

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Middle Level and High School

Arctic Ocean Curriculum Unit

Arctic Ocean Curriculum Unit was created by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) with funding from the North Pacific Research Board. Targeted for middle and high school levels, the unit updates Arctic Ocean–related lessons originally created through the PolarTREC teacher education program. The updated lessons feature the use of recent data, support Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and polar and ocean literacy principles, and encourage cultural relevancy. The unit traces the movement of energy throughout the Arctic Ocean environment through 18 lessons broken into two main components. The first component focuses on the physical sciences, emphasizing seasons, climate, salinity, temperature, currents, and density. The second component focuses on biological sciences emphasizing life cycles, predator-prey relationships, food sources, and survival. 

Opportunities for Grades K–12

NASA’s Power to Explore Student Challenge  

NASA invites K–12 students in the United States to learn about Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS), then design a new RPS-powered space mission that would energize their space exploration dreams. RPS is a type of nuclear “battery” that for more than 60 years has enabled many spacecraft to explore some of the harshest, darkest environments and the farthest reaches of our solar system. Entries are due by January 17, 2023, and will be judged in three grade-level categories: K–4, 5–8, and 9–12. Student entries, which are limited to 200 words, should address the mission destination and goals and describe a unique “power,” or quality, the student has that can help the mission.

The grand-prize winner from each grade category (3 winners total) will receive a trip for two to NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to learn about the people and technologies that power NASA missions. All participants will receive a digital certificate and an invitation to a virtual event with NASA experts in which students will learn what powers the NASA workforce to dream big and explore. Fifteen national semifinalists in each grade category (45 semifinalists total) will receive a NASA RPS Prize Pack, and three national finalists in each grade category (9 finalists total) will receive a virtual session with a NASA RPS expert. 

NASA and Future Engineers are seeking volunteers to help judge the thousands of contest entries anticipated to be submitted from around the country. U.S. residents ages 18 and older who can devote approximately three hours of their time to review submissions can register at

Opportunity for High School

Knowles Academy Free Online Short Courses

During October and November, Knowles Academy will offer free online short courses, covering topics like science practices, engineering design, project-based learning, equitable group work, and actionable norms. Led by experienced teachers, these courses are designed to improve science and mathematics teaching and learning. Participants will engage in interactive discussions with instructors and other participants as they explore new tools and strategies to use in their classrooms. 

All online courses will be held via Zoom; participants must have internet access via a desktop or laptop computer or a tablet, with a camera. Class size is limited; register now to reserve your spot.

Opportunity for High School and College

EPA’s Pollution Prevention Works: A Storytelling Challenge for Students

In a new challenge launched by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), high school and college students can win up to $5,000 by telling stories about pollution prevention (P2) using videos, written stories, infographics, or storymaps. These stories will illustrate how businesses identified through EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) are reducing toxic chemical releases through innovative P2 practices and positively impacting the environment and communities. Entries are due by February 17, 2023.

EPA will hold a webinar on October 26 at 2–3 p.m. Eastern Time to educate students about the challenge. Students can register at

Climate Change Curriculum Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering Environmental Science General Science Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science New Science Teachers News Physical Science Professional Learning Science and Engineering Practices STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Elementary High School Postsecondary

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